Supreme Court’s New Haven Case Ruling Reflects Poorly on Sotomayor


George LaNoue

LaNoue, an expert on the Supreme Court, weighs in on today’s SCOTUS ruling in the Ricci v. DeStefano case.

“The majority decision is a narrow one with far reaching implications. The Court returned to the original purposes of Title VII which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender and the specific provision that employers can not alter the outcome of legitimate employment selection systems to create preferred group outcomes.

The court did not change the standard that employments tests have to be valid as related to specific jobs, but it did say employers had to have a “strong basis  in evidence” that a test was not valid before abandoning it.
The decision is significant because Title VII applies to both public and private employers.  The Court held that the outcome of valid tests may not reflect discrimination even if group pass rates are different (the disparate impact theory).  The Ricci decision stands as a barrier to those who would make racial patronage the key to public service jobs or who advocate that proportional representation is the standard by these jobs should be allocated.

The decision indirectly reflects poorly on the jurisprudence of Judge Sotomayor who without engaging in any substantive analysis had earlier approved New Haven’s decision to abandon the tests. The 5/4, 93-page decision and Justice Ginsburg’s 39-page dissent makes Judge Sotomayor’s earlier treatment of the case look shallow.”



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